Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Drama
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silver linings playbook

Pat Solatano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) is being driven home to Philadelphia from a mental health facility in Baltimore by his mother, Delores. (Jacki Weaver)  Par Jr. has been institutionalized for 8 months, he caught his teacher wife Nikki  (Brea Bee) cheating on him, and beat the hell out of her lover.  Pat Jr. was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and ordered to see a psychiatrist named Doctor Patel (Anupam Kher) and stay on his medication.  Pat Jr. doesn’t want any of it, he wants to go home and work on himself read classic books from Nikki’s syllabus, and jog.  That is Pat Jr.’s road to recovery.

Of course, being at home is not the most nurturing place to be.  Pat Jr.’s father Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) is an obsessive compulsive football fan who’s lost his job, and is now making a living as a bookie.  Pat Jr.’s  wife Nikki has taken out a restraining order on him, and everyone in his neighborhood is afraid that Pat Jr. is going to have another attack and attack one of them. Pat Jr.’s self-help plan is not going so well, he’s getting into fights with his parents about the classic books he is reading, and a song My Cherie Amor, sets him off in a rage.  That was his wedding song, but also the song that was playing when he discovered his wife was cheating on him.

Pat Jr seeks solace at his friend Ronnie’s (John Ortiz) house.  At Ronnie’s house, Pat meets Tiffany.  (Jennifer Lawrence) Tiffany is a cop’s widow and she’s having trouble bouncing back from her loss. Although Pat Jr. is taken aback by Tiffany’s almost instantaneous invitation to sleep with him and refuses it, they soon become fast friends, going jogging, discussing psychotropic drugs they’ve taken, and even going on a non-date at a diner, where Pat Jr. orders Raisin Bran, because he doesn’t want it to be considered a date.

Both Pat Jr. and Tiffany have an angle.  Pat Jr. wants Tiffany to deliver a letter to his wife, Nikki, telling her how much better he’s doing, and Tiffany wants Pat Jr. to enter a dance contest to prove how much better he’s doing.  Pat Jr. agrees to learn to dance with Tiffany, and enter the contest, soon Pat Jr. finds purpose and focus in the dance lessons, but still only sees Tiffany as a stepping stone to winning back Nikki.  On the eve of the dance contest Pat Jr. gets a letter from Nikki.  What does the letter say?  Does Pat Jr. win Nikki back?  Does he go through with the dance contest?

I thoroughly enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook.  I did not think that it would be as funny as it was, but a lot of the movie was laugh out loud funny.  Sure, it plays fast and loose with the bi-polar disorder plotline, nobody thinks ballroom dancing is a treatment for bi-polar disorder. This is a movie, for entertainment purposes, not a documentary.  But it does try to make a serious point about mental health, that no one can cure mental illness by themselves, they need friends and family, and psychotherapy and pharmacology, all of it, to start down the road for a cure.

The acting is superb.  Who knew that Bradley Cooper was such a good actor?  I couldn’t tell from the Hangover, that’s for sure.  He handles both the serious and comedic scenes with equal alacrity. Jennifer Lawrence is electric, she supercharges her character with unending energy.  She is a great actress at such a young age, the major roles she’s played are so different, The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone, and this one, but she’s made the characters in each of these movies unique.  She will be a huge star.  DeNiro will win an Oscar for his role, he handles the comedy much better than his comedic movies, and handles the drama like DeNiro.

The direction is worth noting.  I noticed little things like focusing on Cooper’s hands for a shot to show how nervous he is.  The writing is good, not great, but it was entertaining, and if you want to say that it didn’t take mental illness seriously enough, that is surely a valid point.  But as entertainment, this is a great movie.

Silver Linings Playbook.  It will be golden very shortly.

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